Greatest Economy In History? Not Even Close
President Donald Trump’s favorite talking point is misleading and in some cases downright false.
With the impacts of COVID-19 still looming over the United States economy, President Donald Trump has been running on a new campaign message: “Make America Great Again…Again”. His iconic slogan from the 2016 race has made a return appearance overtaking his previous 2020 message of “Keep America Great”. The pandemic has rocked financial markets, pushing the unemployment rate from around 3.5% to over 8% since March with nearly 30 million people either having their hours reduced, temporarily laid off, or permanently displaced due to the impacts of the pandemic on businesses who were forced to close when quarantine orders went into effect earlier this year. President Trump continues to push his message of returning to the “greatest economy in our nation's history” but is that a true statement?
Looking at the annualized percent change in real GDP (gross domestic product) growth by the most recent 11 Presidencies, we get a clearer picture of how well President Trump has done on the economy.
According to numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, President Trump has seen an average 2.51% growth in the GDP, short of his promised 3% on the 2016 campaign trail. However, these numbers do not include the data from this year's downturn due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. If that data was included, Trump’s numbers would surely drop but it is yet to see by how far. As for the best economy in our nation's history, a simple analysis can see that is not true. Out of the past 11 Presidents, President Trump would rank seven out of eleven, not first as he self proclaims. Trump can proclaim to have better average growth than Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Geroge H. W. Bush, but he is beaten out by Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, and even Richard Nixon. But how does Trump stack up on areas other than GDP growth?
President Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States and the chart above shows the growth of jobs in this sector since the first quarter of 2017 when the Trump tax cuts were passed and signed into law. However, the growth these jobs saw was only temporary as they begin to decline, falling to a net 0 job gain in Q4 of 2019, well before the impacts of coronavirus on the economy. If you were to include data on job losses due to covid, we would surely see massive losses in manufacturing.
The economy continues to recover slowly as businesses reopen and people get back to work but will President Donald Trump be able to improve upon his previous successes? In a study conducted by the nonpartisan Moody’s Analytics, President Trump may not be the best person to help the United States recover from its massive financial losses this year.
In a survey conducted by Moody Analytics, the economic policies of Democratic Nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump were put head to head to see which one would have the best — or worst — impact on the economy as the next President will be facing a massive uphill challenge to pull the country out of a financial recession and getting people back to work safely. The survey found that a potential President Joe Biden with a Democratic sweep of Congress could lead to an average 4.2% growth in the GDP between 2021 and 2024. If Biden were to win the election but Congress was split, they estimate a 3.5% growth in GDP numbers. This is interesting to see because no matter which way you look at the data, Moody’s determines that a President Joe Biden would be better for the economic recovery than a President Trump with or without a split Congress giving an average GDP growth of 3.2% and 3.1% respectively.
As people continue to struggle with the financial pressures exacerbated by the pandemic, the looming questions remain: will the public trust President Trump or a potential President Biden more to help the country? With a little over two weeks before the election and more than 25 million people have already voted, President Trump is pressed for time to convince the American people that he is the best fit.